Sunday, June 10, 2012

Gospel For Today


PENTECOST SUNDAY (B)

Today is the birthday of the Catholic Church!  The age of the Church is reckoned to have begun at the feast of Pentecost (50 days after Easter) when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles.  Why is this such an important occurrence in the early life of the Church?

Well, let's just take a step back for a minute.  Pentecost marks the descent of the Holy Spirit.  So what did Christ have to say about the Holy Spirit?  This is from today's scripture readings.

Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me...  he will guide you to all truth."

This is from the second Gospel option for today (Jn. 15:26-27, 16:12-15).  The first Gospel option (Jn. 20:19-23) recounts when Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said "receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained" (and thus inaugurating the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession, granting the Apostles the authority to forgive sins in His name).

So just from today's readings we discover that it is the Holy Spirit that not only gives the Church the authority to forgive sins (crucial to the sanctifying mission of the Church), but also leads the Church "to all truth," which is essential to her teaching mission.

Last week we celebrated Christ's Ascension.  Just before He went up to be with the Father in heaven, Jesus gave this final command to the Church: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you" (Mt. 28:19).  The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost empowers the Church to fulfill this command.  It is the fulfillment of Christ's promise to His Church.

The immediate effect of the Holy Spirit's descent upon the Church was obvious and impressive.  The Apostles were filled with a spirit of zeal and began to preach to the masses.  Though they preached in their own language, all the listeners gathered (from many different nations) miraculously heard them speaking in their own native tongues.  About 3000 people were converted and baptized that day.

The gift of tongues is a rare one, to be sure, but there are many other gifts of the Holy Spirit which are still found in abundance in the Church today -- and that means you and me, too.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church outlines these seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord ("fear" in this context means an awesome respect for the Lord's greatness, not the hiding under your bed kind of fear) (CCC 1831).

In the first option for the second reading today (1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13), St. Paul says this about the gifts of the Spirit.  

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

He then goes on to compare this to the different parts of the body being part of the same body, though they have different functions.  This is how it is with all of us in the Church.  The Holy Spirit gives each of us gifts, this much we can count on.  But my gifts are not going to be the same as your gifts.  Nor should they be.  Maybe you have a great musical talent you are meant to use in service to the Lord; maybe you are a gifted teacher; perhaps you are a compassionate listener who can use that gift to spread God's love.  We each were gifted by the Lord with different talents, skills and abilities.  Our job is to use those gifts as best we can, for the glory of God; not to sit around whining and complaining that we don't have the same gifts as someone else.

I imagine most of you reading this today will have been baptized and confirmed.  You have been marked as a child of God's, sealed with the seal of Christ, and blessed by His Spirit.  I encourage you today, as we celebrate the birthday of the Church, to pray about what gifts the Spirit has given you, and reflect on how you have put those gifts to use to increase the body of Christ.

May God bless you on this great feast!

--
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723





--
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723


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